Calera students prepare for future education

Published 11:47 am Monday, January 25, 2016

Calera High School students focus on “My High School Future” projects, preparing for life after high school. (Contributed)

Calera High School students focus on “My High School Future” projects, preparing for life after high school. (Contributed)


CALERA— Students at Calera High School are taking ownership of their own education.  As part of a Shelby County Schools focus on student-led conferences, ninth-graders are conducting “My High School Future” projects in Erin Golden’s English class.

Seniors have been doing a project similar to this for the last seven years in Shelby County Schools as a way of helping them reflect and prepare for life after high school.

“The transition from middle school to high school is a challenging one,” said Calera High School principal Joel Dixon. “Typically, there’s a step up in academic rigor.  There are more freedoms but also a greater expectation for responsibility.”

He explained that students reflect on a variety of topics and present to their peers, administrators and counselors, who offer feedback. Golden said she sees a wealth of benefits to this project, noticing that freshmen become more aware of the deadline of graduation.

“I’ve been really impressed with the honesty they’ve shown in their presentations,” said Leslie Walker, a senior counselor with the school. “It’s the kind of moments that educators strive for.”

Walker said this is the school’s first effort, led by the students, that asks them to evaluate where they are and where they want to go. One of the biggest benefits, according to Golden, is giving the students a sense of buying into their own education and recognizing the balance of freedom with responsibility.

Freshmen Rebekah Wright said she benefited by becoming more self-aware and thinking more about her strengths and weaknesses.

“I learned that even though it may seem like some people don’t care, they really do,” said Hannah Hall. “They just need someone to push them and help them stay on the right track.”

Another group of students is also engaging in student-led conferences at the high school. Tracy Kies, special education teacher, has been assisting her students prepare for and conduct their IEP meetings in which they present their academic strengths, weaknesses and goals in accordance with their Individual Education Plans.

Parents, teachers and central office personnel attend these conferences and work together to develop and adjust the plan as students progress through school. This year, each student created a presentation about themselves, featuring their likes, dislikes, what helps them in school and why.

“We learned why they need their accommodations from their perspective—what makes them feel successful in school,” Kies said. As an IEP Team, student, parent, teachers and program specialist, we were able to understand the needs of our students better than ever before.

In the end, Dixon said the goal for all students at Calera High School is to be prepared for their futures.